Saturday Supplement

I fully intend being as far away as I can be from a computer this morning, preferably with a nice cup of coffee and a book in my hand. But here's a quick link dump on related themes for those of you not in such halcyon surroundings:

Wonga-World and Beyond
  • Following on from my own piece earlier in the week, I came a cross a nuanced look at the regulation of pay-day loan companies by former head of Church Action on Poverty, suggesting that Credit Unions alone are an inadequate response to the banking needs of the poor.
  • Then I came across this piece by Bishop Nick Baines responding to an editorial in The Independent written in the light of the AoC's pronouncements, ably defending the place of the church in the public square.
  • Then there was a piece looking at the moral-murk behind ethical-consumerism - are companies getting more ethical about their production practices and effective use of slave-labour, particularly children - or are they just getting cleverer in covering it up? And are we simply turning a blind eye?
Social-Experiments (Fact and Fiction) 
  • In a cross-over between the previous section and this one a piece on Upworthy looks at the corrupting power of wealth - However, there should be a statistical and scientific health warning given re such social experiments, as they never tell you what sort of a sampling technique they used and how they adjusted for other factors eg. age, gender, ethnicity etc
  • Similar questions should also be asked of the social experiment to be found on YouTube regarding whether we would be willing to intervene in a situation where someone is stealing a bike.
  • Then there is the piece doing the rounds on Facebook re pastor Jeremiah Steepek who is supposedly a New Pastor of a Megachurch who poses as a homeless man. It is a great story... but it's just a story, which is exploded on hoax-slayer. It is a device many have used... Not just in church... Antony Sher did something similar in the build up to an RSC production of the Taming of the Shrew in the late 70s early 80s, and inspired by that I had the leader of a visiting youth team, to do something similar on his first morning with us, when I was minister in Glastry, before speaking on the story of Bartimaeus... One member of the church nearly physically restrained the youth leader from coming up to the front of the church... I later had actor Steve Fortune do something similar before the New Irish Arts production of "Healing of the Nations." Many have responded to my critique of the story by saying that it may not be true but it has truth within it, just like the parables. But my main gripe is that the "factualising" of it actually robs it of some of it's power because there are those who will simply write it off as a piece of emotional chicanery that has been "debunked" whilst missing the point of it... Perhaps it would be better done as a social experiment in local churches...
Politics, Parades and the Peace Process
I've commented earlier this week on the danger of pontificating from on high regarding the political situation here in Northern Ireland, but there have been a number of interesting pieces on the post-Twelfth political scene including the following:
  • In between the Twelfth and the first "peaceful" protest on the Woodvale Road, while Belfast was still convulsed with nightly riots, Alex Kane, former Ulster Unionist advisor, wrote this highly critical piece regarding the Orange Order's approach to the whole parading issue.
  • That was mild compared with Brian John Spencer's take on it on Eamonn Mallie's blog, where he puts the loyalist riots in the context of the confrontation between progressive forces in the world and those that are more reactionary and regressive.
  • I think that John Kyle, on the same blog, (but also reprinted in the Contemporary Christianity ps section) slightly misrepresents what Spencer was saying. There are significant elements in his post that I will possibly take up directly with John, but his ultimate conclusions regarding offering loyalist youth a better alternative than dole or soldier deserve further discussion in the corridors of power.
  • John cites the work of Dave Magee, who has studies and blogged on the place of masculinity in loyalism... He has also studied the work of Martin Luther King Jnr. and applied Kingian non-violent techniques ot his work in loyalist communities. In a piece last week he looks at some of King's teaching as a means of forging a real community in the face of chaos.
  • In my last Supplement I cited John Brewer's assertion that the Orange Order needs to be part of our future in this province and urged others to work with them to that end. In a piece prompted by a column by William Scholes in the Belfast Telegraph saying much the same thing, Gary McMurray, a Church of Ireland minister in Fermanagh, responded to the whole parading issue not primarily from a community relations or political perspective, but from a specifically faith-based one, asking whether the actions of the Orange Order are really advancing the cause the Christianity that they supposedly espouse. What is also of note in this blog is the etiquette in asking the author for permission to quote him...
  • However Declan Kearney, Chairman of Sinn Fein didn't ask for the Queens permission to quote her, without attributing the words directly to her... In an academic situation that would gain you accusations of plagiarism, but in the political moominland of Northern Ireland, that is a sign that we are actually listening to and learning from each other... slowly.
  • It is ironic then that in another piece Alex Kane urges Unionism and Orangeism to learn from Sinn Fein... Meanwhile, on Eamonn Mallie's blog Sean Brennan argues that loyalist communities have been learning. He uses social capital theory to demonstrate that they are learning the importance of binding, bridging and linking capital in the pursuit of their ends... However I would argue that here in Northern Ireland we have defined social capital too tightly, and consequently we tend to learn from the wrong examples that maintain divisions and keep people locked within disadvantaged communities.
  • In a final piece from Eamonn Mallie's blog (though I never seem to be citing Eamonn himself it must be said) Barney Rowan looks forward to the upcoming intervention of Richard Haas... and beyond that to what the Executive will do with any findings that will come from it. I have to say I share Billy Hutchinson's scepticism with regard to the latter, but also have a certain frustration with a political class and society as a whole that needs someone from outside to come and hold our hands like toddlers being told to share and play nicely together... especially when "outside" generally means the USA which doesn't exactly have the world's finest example of a fully functioning democracy... And that is the conclusion of a former president!
Meanwhile, Back at the Church


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